Your kidlet’s played through every hands-on exhibit at the Museum of Flight; broadened scientific horizons at the Pacific Science Center’s summer camps; climbed the mountain and made a mess in the art room at the Seattle Children’s Museum; and personally greeted all of the Woodland Park Zoo animals. It’s time to do something new! Spice up your regular Seattle playtime routine with these programs, we bet you didn’t know about, at the Big Four.

photo: Ryan Hawk for Woodland Park Zoo

Seattle Children’s Museum

Visually Speaking: Each Friday at 11:30 a.m. Teacher Alex, from Visually Speaking shows off her super ASL powers to little learners, ages 10 months through five years. It’s time for curious kiddos (hearing and non-hearing alike) to learn sign language through games, stories and interactive toys. It’s time for your sidekick to play and explore, while Alex follows the lead of the Littles, signing and directing as she goes. Through lots of props, interactive play and that monkey-see, monkey-do mimicry that all kiddos seem to have, they’ll pick up basic signs in no time. Check it out once, or make it part of your regular routine.

Visually speaking story time SCM photo: Seattle Children’s Museum

Acting Out Literacy: The Seattle Children’s Museum is making the most of their newly renovated Bijou Theater space (in the way back of the museum). They’ll be hosting an Acting Out Literacy program the third Friday of each month, in this dramatic, creative play space, aimed at bringing stories to life. Families will have two chances (at 1 p.m. & 1:30 p.m.) to sign their little dramatist up for a starring role (don’t worry, there are plenty of big parts to go around for these small actors!), in one of the featured stories. Sign up for one or try them both if your kiddo really wants to shine. The program is geared for players ages 4-10, but anyone can give it the old college try. And if the kick-off program in February was an indicator of anything, it’s that this one’s going to be a museum-going fave. Bravo!

Wellness Wednesdays: Did you know that each day at the Seattle Children’s Museum has a different theme? Wednesdays focus on wellness and there are two super cute, and healthy programs parents need to try with their kidlets. At 11:30 a.m. join the Children’s Museum staff in an up-and-at-‘em Wellness program focused on exercise and movement, like rolling the dice to create an exercise program or playing a colorful game of hopscotch. This one is built for the museum’s preschool visitors (ages 2-4), but anyone who’s got some energy to burn is welcome to join in! Follow up your Little’s exercise routine with the Kids Cook program at 2 p.m., also on Wednesdays. Here, little chefs and their kitchen helpers (that’s you, parents) will learn about cooking healthy meals and snacks and have a chance to prepare a few to try, too! The March menu looks like a lucky place to start, with rainbow fruit skewers you know your little Leprechaun will love. Delish!

Kids Cook Seattle Children's Museumphoto:Seattle Children’s Museum 

Pacific Science Center

Preschool Family Play Lab: If the first few months of this new STEM program are any indication (registration is full for two of the three spring events!), this class is going to rock. The idea is simple. You and your little learner (ages 2½-4) take a 90-minute class, led by an experienced Proton Preschool teacher. During class, your sidekick learns all kinds of cool science concepts through songs, experiments and projects (think: Coke and Mentos geysers, elephant toothpaste, and play-dough circuits), all perfectly proportioned for little kid learning. You get to fill your arsenal with tips and tricks to carry on the trend at home. After the time is up, both of you can explore all the other awesome exhibits the museum has to offer. The cost is $20 per pair ($15 for members). It’s a win-win afternoon with a side of science!

Meet a Scientist: Bring your little brainiac to PacSci the first Saturday of each month to meet a gaggle of local scientists, all ready to talk about projects they’re involved in around Seattle. Power-house research institutions, like Fred Hutch and UW send their best and brightest to explain current projects in layman’s terms, through hands-on activities and demos. And each scientist (you might find as many as five in each session!) is available to answer questions as you walk around this set up in the Ackerley Family Gallery that resembles a grown-up science fair. Drop in any time during either of the two sessions (11 a.m.-2 p.m. & 2 p.m.-5 p.m.) to inspire a little scientific inquiry in your sidekick.

Meet a Scientist PacSci

photo: Pacific Science Center

Mercer Slough Location: If you’ve ever hit Bellevue Square from the city, chances are high that you’ve driven right past the Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center. This lesser known facility is where the Pacific Science Center hosts cool family programming with an outdoor focus. We love their Parents Day Out because it’s usually offered on days when school’s out but work is still on. It’s a great go-to drop spot, with trusted programming and a big thumbs-up from kiddos who love the chance to get dirty exploring the 320-acre wetland park. The monthly Night Walks are another slough fave and with summer just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to give them a try. The evening starts in the lab, where kidlets and parents conduct experiments and get personal with the animals they are about to see (or at least hear). Then, it’s off into the wilderness to learn about the wetland wildlife in a safe (not scary at all!) environment. It’s a different way to shed some light on those elusive nighttime critters.

Museum of Flight

Connections: Blast off with this recently launched program that connects tiny school-aged flyers (kindergarten and up) plus one parent to the fabulous world of flying… for Free! It’s a special membership that includes unlimited admission to the museum (for the two of you!), a newsletter and cool early reg perks for some of the museum’s education programs. If you want in on this action, simply sign up online or at the Alaska Airlines Aerospace Education Center. Then, visit and learn the whole year long! Psst… if your little pilot isn’t school-aged yet, get a glimpse of the museum for free on the first Thursdays of every month from 5 p.m.-9 p.m.

Kid with Glider museum of flight

photo: Museum of Flight

STEM Starters Preschool Program: This members-only program lifted off just over a year ago as part of an initiative to bring STEM programming to preschoolers (ages 3-5) around the Sound. Each 60-minute class has a different focus, like Pathways & Ramps or Circuits, but a similar structure. Along with 11 other family pairs (class maxes out at 12 families), little flyers and their co-pilots (that’s you, parents!) listen to a story, get the wiggles out during movement time and then buckle down to learn, learn, learn during circle time demos and project explorations. Hands on is the way this program works, so kids get to make squishy circuits or construct little robots during the jitterbox activity. The group meets the second Monday of each month at 10:30 a.m. and then again (usually) on the fourth Monday. Snag your spot with quick RSVP to memebership@museumofflight.org.

Family Weekend Workshops: Weekends at the Museum of Flight aren’t just about getting out of those spring showers. They’re about bringing families together with hands-on workshops tied to high-flying themes. The Bank of America sponsors this hour-long program that runs both Saturdays and Sundays, usually at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Expect a little lesson up front, followed by a crafty project related to the topic. Next up, Party with Pluto! followed by Fifinella on the Fly (Psst… it’s about the women Air Force pilots who served during WWII). There’s no need to sign up and no extra cost (beyond admission) associated with this crafty good time.

MuseumOfFlight kids with flying bug craft

 photo: Museum of Flight

Woodland Park Zoo

Bug Club: They creep, they crawl and for some reason, the Littles find them fascinating! A monthly club for your bug lover (ages 5-12) is a can’t-miss zoo favorite. The club meets monthly on fourth Sundays, from 10 a.m. to noon. It’s where emerging entomologists get up close and personal with arthropods and others their own age who just can’t seem to get enough of those creepy, crawly critters. There are plenty of hands-on opportunities to find out everything they ever wanted to know about insects, through hands-on projects, outdoor expeditions and of course, snacks to keep them fueled for them morning. The flexibility of this year-round, drop-off program is the added bonus that makes it a busy family fave. Sign your little entomologist up for the whole quarter ($55) or drop in ($20) when you’ve got time to spare.

photo: Ryan Hawk for Woodland Park Zoo

Zoo Sprouts: Go on a zoo adventure with your little sprout during this 90-minute long class that meets weekly at 11:30 a.m. The program infuses a few extra perks with your everyday zoo-tastic journey, like songs, stories and art, related to a wildly fun animal theme. All of this takes place in the classroom before you, your sidekick and a zoo guide take off to get up close and personal with some of the cool creatures the zoo has to offer. This spring, families can sign up to learn about Colors of the Wild, Busy Bears and Terrific Tigers before school lets out. It’s just $25 for each parent/child pair and $10 for each extra 3-5 year old.

photo: Ryan Hawk for Woodland Park Zoo

ZooParent Adoptions: So you know when your wee one asks to take home all of the animals every time you see a cute one at Woodland Park Zoo? Well, now he or she can… sort of. The ZooParent program allows families to adopt one of their zoo faves (lions and tigers and bears and more!). Don’t worry, the adoption is only symbolic, so you won’t have another (completely gigantic) mouth to feed. But what you will get is a photo of your new “pet,” a fact sheet about him or her, an adoption certificate and a sweet gel cling to stick somewhere everyone can see it. There’s even a spring special ($69) to adopt the Western Lowland Gorilla in celebration of Nadiri’s new baby girl.

Are these programs new to you? Do you have one to add that others should know about? Tell us in the Comments below!

— Allison Sutcliffe